You’ve probably had bean and alfalfa sprouts in sandwiches. But did you know that vegetables like broccoli and radishes can be sprouted, too? They’re tasty, economical, fun to grow and packed with vitamin C.
Sprouts are plants’ first tender stems. After seeds have germinated, they push tiny leaves toward the sun. Almost any seed can be sprouted, though we’re most familiar with sprouted grains and legumes. Among vegetables, the most common sprouts are in the cabbage (broccoli, cress, mustard and radish) and onion (chive, onion) families, and they have a range of flavors: Mustard sprouts are spicy, broccoli sprouts have a mild pepper flavor, onion sprouts taste like onion with no chopping or crying, and radish sprouts — like daikon or China Rose — offer a hint of heat.
Sprouts are an economical way to get your vegetables: One pound of seeds can yield 8 pounds of fresh, crunchy sprouts. You might be able to find some types of vegetable sprouts in some markets; others you’ll likely have to grow yourself. Most health-food stores have sprouting kits and seeds available for purchase, as do many online sources. Avoid conventional garden seeds — they’ve been produced to grow in soil and have often been treated with fungicides or pesticides.
When seeds sprout, they synthesize new enzymes that help them survive life above ground. Those enzymes also help us digest the sprouts. Plus, they convert some of their sugar to vitamin C, an essential nutrient for a healthy immune system.
Sprouts are packed with vitamins and minerals. Radish sprouts, for example, contain vitamins A, B, C, E and K; calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc; as well as amino acids, antioxidants and protein. Because sprouts are young plants, they’re also rich in protective chemical defenses. Broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphanes, a type of isothiocyanate that has been shown in studies to help prevent cancer.
One caution: Because sprouts are grown in warm, wet conditions — which microbes also love — they can cause food poisoning. Be sure to eat them fresh.
- Add your favorite vegetable sprouts to any sandwich, wrap or pita.
- For a new twist on coleslaw, stir in broccoli or radish sprouts.
- When making hummus or bean dips, add 1/4 cup onion sprouts to 3 cups beans for added flavor and texture.
- Homemade sushi comes alive with daikon radish sprouts peeking out of the ends. They add a crispy bite to California rolls.
- Top your favorite soups with a sprinkle of sprouts for a light, refreshing and beautiful garnish.
How Long Does It Take for Vegetable Seeds to Sprout?
- To grow sprouts at home, use a wide-mouth mason glass jar; add one part seeds to three parts water to cover. Use filtered water if possible.
- Cover with cheesecloth or a fine mesh screen and secure with a rubber band. Allow the seeds to soak eight to 12 hours in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
- Rinse the seeds well, then drain water.
- Store the jar in a shaded place and repeat the rinsing process three times a day for four days. On the fourth day, the seeds will have started sprouting.
- Rinse and drain again, then expose them to sunlight. Your sprouts are done when they develop leaves and turn green.
- Sprouts will stay freshest in the vegetable crisper but should be used as soon as possible, usually within three days of sprouting or purchase.
- Rinsing sprouts with cold water daily extends their shelf life. Dry on a paper towel before returning to the refrigerator.
Asian Sprout Chop Salad
Makes four servings
- 1 cup broccoli sprouts
- 1 cup cress sprouts
- 1 cup daikon sprouts
- 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
- 1 cup grated fresh carrots
- 1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
- 1/3 cup sesame ginger dressing
- 1 tbs. toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
- In a medium mixing bowl, toss the vegetables together, add the dressing and mix gently.
- Place 1 1/2 cup tossed salad into each serving bowl and garnish with 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds and 1/2 teaspoon cilantro.
Per serving: Calories 170; protein 6g; total fat 11g; saturated fat 1.5g; carbohydrates 17g; dietary fiber 4g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 230mg
Buddhist Sour Soup
Makes eight cups
- 2 cups diced silken tofu
- 1/4 cup tamarind
- 1 cup hot water
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups diced okra
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 3/4 cup chopped pineapple
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. tamari
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots
- 2 cups broccoli sprouts
- 1 tbs. fine shreds of basil (chiffonade)
- 1/4 tsp. minced Serrano chilies
- Dissolve tamarind into 1 cup of water and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepot. Bring liquid to a simmer and add water.
- Heat to a simmer and add okra, tomatoes and pineapple. Bring back to simmer and add sugar, sea salt and soy sauce.
- Finally, gently stir in tofu and cook for two minutes.
- Place garnish ingredients in small box and mix to combine. Ladle 1 cup into each bowl and sprinkle with a 1/4 cup garnish.
Per 1 cup serving: Calories 100; protein 6g; total fat 2g; saturated fat 0g; carbohydrate 16g; dietary fiber 0g; cholesterol 0mg; sodium 220mg
Onion Sprout Pancakes With Dipping Sauce
Makes four servings
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cups onion sprouts
- 1/2 cup grated carrots
- 1 tbs. minced fresh ginger
- 1 tbs. minced fresh garlic
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tbs. soy sauce
- 1/2 cup unbleached flour
- 1 tbs. baking powder
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- In a mixing bowl, combine the peppers, onion sprouts, carrots, ginger and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, soy sauce, flour and baking powder to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the bean sprout mixture and stir well.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto skillet and cook for about two to three minutes or until pancake has set and bottom has browned. Turn over and cook another minute until browned. Repeat with remaining batter, adding additional oil as needed. Makes about 12 pancakes.
- Dipping sauce: Combine the soy sauce and rice vinegar in bowl and serve with pancakes.
Per 3 pancakes, 2 tablespoon sauces: Calories 290; protein 11g; total fat 18g; saturated fat 3g; carbohydrates 23g; dietary fiber 4g; cholesterol 160mg; sodium 191mg
This article has been updated. It was originally published in the April 2010 issue of Experience Life.